The Battle for Control

Iyou’ve been to an electronics or lighting trade show recently, you already know how fast the controls category is growing. Now besides Bluetooth and wi-fi, there is also li-fi on the horizon (li-fi stands for Light Fidelity and describes wireless communication that is fully networked and relies on the visual light spectrum, such as infrared, instead of radio frequency).

In short, with all of these mobile control apps and capabilities available, the point was raised during an international lighting conference I attended that bandwidth might eventually become too saturated to be used effectively. This has led some companies to explore alternatives. For example, Cree® recently debuted a POE (Power Over Ethernet) solution called SmartCast® Technology in partnership with Cisco Systems.

Controls aren’t just about turning lights on/off, dimming, and timers anymore — and the areas of the home that are incorporating controls are growing. In the office sector, daylight harvesting has steadily increased year over year and a large portion of that sector deals with shade operation. Naturally, that has become bundled into the building’s controls as well as any mobile phone apps. While the residential industry hasn’t utilized these daylighting products, you’ll notice in the News section of this issue there are two control companies (Legrand and Lutron) partnering with patio and shade manufacturers to do just that.

When customers come to your showroom seeking guidance on the latest lighting solutions, don’t let the conversation end with LED technology. Controls are not only becoming more important to homeowners and light commercial specifiers, but they can become a lucrative portion of your revenue stream.

Right now, there is no standardization in the controls industry regarding the ideal protocol — and each method has its pluses and minuses. Until a consensus is reached, what’s important is to be aware of the different types of communication technology available for your customers. You might have to offer several types in order to best suit your customers’ needs. This will involve a longer selling process as you educate your customers about what is involved without overwhelming them. This extra time you spend will not be wasted; it will fall under relationship-building and will earn the customers’ trust in your business over the long-term.

Selling lighting these days has never been more complicated. On a positive note, these more sophisticated systems are helping to elevate the industry above the commodity level — and that means potentially more business at higher dollar amounts for everyone. It is my hope that this issue offers insightful content to help you prepare for the next frontier in lighting. 

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